Welcome back! We wind our way towards the top six, but before we can get there, we have #8 and #7 to cover. Without further ado, here we go!
#8. ACT YASUKAWA
Some people were born to perform. Act Yasukawa is one of those people.
Professional wrestling training is grueling and exhausting. Yet, at the end of the day, the amount of people who can learn the craft and physically execute it is likely significantly higher than the amount of people who can truly perform. Watching Act Yasukawa, a woman with a theater background, is to see the potential when you blend the worlds of wrestling and theater – worlds which have really always been blended to begin with.
Whether as the junior partner of Natsuki*Taiyo and Yoshiko in the very early stages of her career, or stepping right up fearlessly to Nanae Takahashi, Act displayed a command of her character and a comfort with being center stage that takes many wrestlers a career to develop – if they ever develop it at all.
Act was a good wrestler, but a truly transcendent performer. Whether on the mic or during her matches, you knew what she was feeling. She could make you laugh. She could make you cry. She could make you angry. She rode that ability to two reigns as Wonder of Stardom Champion and being one-third of the first ever Artist of Stardom Champions. Had fate not intervened, she could have achieved a lot more.
She is, in many ways, an embodiment of everything that Stardom represents. For many Western fans, she is one of the gateways to the company. I sometimes wonder if Stardom would be anywhere near as popular in the West if not for Act’s story becoming more well known among hardcore wrestling fans.
Everything about Act was unique – from her philosophy to her ring attire to her style in the ring. In an industry in which anything that works is copied ad nauseum, Act Yasukawa is something and someone unique – a true unicorn, a one-off the likes of which we’re unlikely to see ever again.
#7. YOKO BITO
Yoko Bito is the Arn Anderson of Stardom, something I say in as complementary a fashion as humanly possible. She has never been the company’s top star, always in the shadow of someone else, whether that person was Yuzuki Aikawa or even Yoshiko in the company’s early days, or Threedom ever since her return to Stardom. She’s always been a main event level talent, but not THE main event level talent. That is arguably the story of Bito’s career, whether she was trying to do the impossible by beating Nanae Takahashi for the World of Stardom months into her career, or (in my opinion) being robbed of the same belt in 2016 by an overzealous referee when she faced Io Shirai.
Yoko’s not a flashy wrestler – she doesn’t do a whole lot different from when she debuted. She relies on her karate-ka skills and basic wrestling to see her through, and she does everything she does well and with snap and pop. She’s agile enough to compete against the High Speed competitors, yet tall enough to credibly throw strikes with the likes of Nanae, Kyoko Kimura, and many of the foreigners who populate Stardom tours.
She has had good matches against virtually everyone you can imagine, both in singles competition and as a tag team. Perhaps no one in Stardom’s history has main evented against as wide a variety of competitors as Bito. She has been the partner of both Yuzuki Aikawa and Kairi Hojo, holding the Goddesses of Stardom with each, and finally got her due as a singles wrestler by picking up the 5*STAR Grand Prix crown in 2016.
Bito is the most hard-luck competitor in Stardom. She could well have become the company’s top star had she not suffered a serious injury in her Wonder of Stardom match with Yuzuki Aikawa. Upon her return, it finally seemed that she could perhaps ascend to the pinnacle, winning the 5*STAR Grand Prix, only to have her chance at glory snuffed out by the indomitable Io Shirai and a referee that, I continue to insist, flat out cost Bito the title. Her team with Kairi Hojo brought her Goddesses glory once more, but an injury cost her more time before her recent return to action.
The Stardom that Yoko Bito returns to is one without Kairi Hojo, and quite possibly one without Io Shirai as well. There may well be no better time for the Ace Candidate to finally, finally shed “candidate” from her former nickname and become, well and truly, the Ace of Stardom.
Six names remain. I’m sure many of you know who they are, but the question remains as to what order they come in. We’ll be back soon with #6!